About an hour ago I put out a blog that ensures I will never work in housing again. I did this knowing it was professional suicide and my 22 years in housing is over. I did this because it needed to be said and not because I have suddenly flipped or I am seeking attention or some heroic martyrdom or any other such bullshit. I did it because it needed to be said nothing more.
I am as toxic to any social housing organisation as you can be because I have come out off the fence and told the inevitable truth that social housing is led by a spineless incompetent in David Orr the CEO of the National Housing Federation. What he says, as the regularly voted number one most influential person is housing, carries huge weight. To dare criticise or even contemplate criticising David Orr is anathema yet it is absolutely necessary for him to go and quickly if the social housing model is to survive.
I immediately apologise to all of those now ex-colleagues I have ever worked with or spoken with in social housing as 99% of you do genuinely care about the ethos of social housing and love the job you do. It is not your fault you are led by a man who doesn’t have the balls to fight the sustained attack on the social housing model and has sold you all down the Swanee.
There is nothing personal about this or am I getting involved in the old schism that is starkly raising its ugly in-fighting head again between housing association and council landlords within the alleged sector. Housing Associations while just 53% of all social landlords talk for the ‘sector’ as there is little or no influential voice for council landlords or ALMOs, r the other 47%. When David Orr buggers it up for the 53% he buggers it up royally for 100% of the social housing model and he royally has buggered it up.
What David Orr said in a Guardian article this morning is nothing less than spineless capitulation on behalf of housing associations who will not fight for social housing itself, and any pretensions they will mount a concerted campaign against right to buy for HA tenants is a view taken held with enough salt to kill an elephant.
Although the evicted children and their parents will be taught a valuable lesson as they enter the best temporary homeless accommodations that will spring up in every city, town and hamlet and provide meaningful employment for Sir Eric Pickles
The ADDITIONAL 90,000 households with somewhere near 300,000 children the reduced benefit cap will hit and evict and make homeless this year (more each succeeding year) is a mere trifling matter according to David Orr and the Nat Fed. The
It is not as important as RTB for HAs which he says will stifle HA’s ability to develop more social housing. Yet it also means that housing associations become at such huge financial risk that they will not be able to operate and will go bankrupt as its funders rightly flee social housing so developing more properties is no even an issue in that context.
That is a crass incompetent and spineless position to adopt. It is business suicide not just for 2 million or so housing association tenant households but for the near 4 million tenant households across all of social housing.
It means that social housing alone will evict and make homeless and additional 100,000 children this year. In reality HAs have no financial choice in this which is a direct consequence of the Tories reduced overall (HOUSING) benefit cap policy. A policy that the Nat Fed and David Orr sees as having nowhere near the importance of RTB for HAs – Yet if HAs can’t operate and can’t survive financially, which it what the reduced benefit cap means, why the hell are they worrying about developing more as no funder will touch them with a bargepole!
It means huge additional cost to every local council who have no choice but to accommodate homeless families in law and incur huge bills in doing so. It also means LAs will abandon single homeless provision and that not only will see tens of thousands more rough sleepers on our streets, it means the 30%+ of childless women fleeing domestic violence and abuse cannot access a refuge and will have to stay in the abusive home. That is not worth fighting for says David Orr.
It means the taxpayer who already pays out millions more in tax for the benefit cap and other HB cuts and caps will have to pay even more in tax while stupidly believing the Tory spin that cuts and caps reduce the benefit bill when as a matter of irrefutable fact these cuts and caps cost more as the IFS think tank admitted yesterday – a point I first made over a year ago with figures that people chose not to believe.
The Nat Fed position of swatting aside the relevance of the OHBC and presenting this as an irrelevance when it means they can’t operate is staggering ineptitude and highly dangerous. It means the Nat Fed is choosing not to see this and it means they are choosing not to fight against the reduced benefit cap. If Nat Fed members were to ask their tenants if they should challenge the extremely superficial and pernicious benefit cap reduction they would receive a resounding YES vote; that’s the same Nat Fed which calls tenants customers and claims to be on the social tenants side!
I look forward to the Nat Fed advice to its members on how you evict tens of thousands of CHILDREN each year and how this is in the best interests of its ‘customers’ and not affect its landlord members core business! That will be one hell of a good practice advice note to its members which the Nat Fed is royally f*cking over too by adopting the OHBC is an irrelevance strategy.
Over the last two months I have met and spoken with many senior figures in social housing in regard with the devastating impact the reduced overall housing benefit cap means. They know and accept the scale of the financial nightmare the OHBC presents and quite simply that I am right over this and none of my rants are hyperbolic. It is not their fault that David Orr has come out and dismissed the benefit cap reduction and is being acutely inept in this. Yet it is those same people who do genuinely care for he social housing model who have to act and do the exact opposite of what the Nat fed suggests in doing nothing over the OHBC ‘irrelevance’ as David Orr sees it. He is more toxic to the social housing movement than I have made myself by releasing the impacts of the OHBC publicly and daring to criticise him.
Social housing, what some who work in housing associations still call a movement, is only moving in one direction and that is to its on inevitable death if it fail to fight the OHBC. I cannot and will not be part of any organisation that is knowingly allowing CHILDREN to be evicted and made homeless and deliberately not fighting against that. If I had just 1% of the social conscience and altruism and basic human dignity I have I still could never condone that stance which the National Housing Federation is taking here.
One final point. Today David Orr gave figures of how many more people the reduced benefit cap will affect and I have simply taken those figures of an additional 90,000 households to illustrate my arguments as to what the policy means. The increase from 23,000 households to 113,000 households is a 491% increase in households will be be made homeless. I chose to use those figures to avoid hyperbole because I would argue they are a major underestimate of the true figure. To explain…
In 2012 the DWP issued a Freedom Of Information Act response (see below) as to the numbers of households claiming benefit by the numbers of children in that household. This revealed that just 2.92% of all benefit recipients had 5 or more children which is why the current cap affects 23,000 households. Yet the reduction means that the reduced OHBC will affect families with 3 or more children, most of them immediately, and all by the end of this Parliament. That same FOIA response revealed 22.89% of all benefit recipients have 3 or more children or almost eight times more.
The Nat fed figures suggest the reduce cap will only affect 4.9 times as many as currently – still a huge increase but a likely underestimate and so my using their figures which I strongly suggest are an underestimate means I am being the opposite of hyperbolic in my comments as to its impacts which are horrendous.
When I say in my blog earlier today, all things being equal, that households in Liverpool hit by the reduced cap will rocket from 246 to 1209 that figure could be 1928 if it increases in line with the proportion of benefit recipients children which is how the benefit cap works. Personally I have failed to impress upon social landlords that the reduced benefit cap, which only reduces Housing Benefit and hence OHBC, is this financial nightmare I claim and know it to be. The figures simply do not lie and the apathetic response of David Orr and the National Housing Federation he leads today mean that housing association members will heed his view and follow it because of David Orr’s standing in social housing.
I can see the excuses being made now. This is government policy there is nothing we can do. That sort of excuse will be trotted out as it was by all social landlords at the beginning of the bedroom tax, by comparison to the reduced benefit cap, a genuinely mere trifle of a pernicious policy. Yet doing nothing still means all social landlords and particularly housing associations are in cahoots with the Tory government by remaining silent and inactive and working to the all social tenants are Benefit Street caricatures.
I refuse to be a part of that social cleansing.